I had a play test of Plutocracy version 18.11 last night. It’s been streamlined a lot since it’s days as a multi-hour 4X game. Now it’s an area control game that has been coming in under 30 minutes.
It’s back down to 5 factions instead of 7 so the random cube pulls won’t vary as much. It was also cut down to 10 planets from 12.
The biggest change for this version was removing the trade action. Since the game has always been a stock market game at heart, trading seemed like an important part. However, it turns out it isn’t needed. Trading allowed players to drastically change what faction they were invested in. It took up a good amount of time and required more tracking in game to deal with fluctuating prices.
I was worried that players wouldn’t like it being removed, but I wanted to try the game with essentially only the move action. It went over very well. Players can’t shift factions as drastically, but that seems to be a benefit. Though players can still shift their allegiance, it takes time. So they are incentivized to push for certain factions on the board instead of just investing in the projected leader.
The income system I was using last night was passable, but tedious. It tied to the recruit system so players had some limited choice in what influence to take and how that would affect the recruit action. I’ve come up with a new idea for income and recruit that uses a version of “I split, you choose”.
The active player will have a recruit board with 4 areas on it. 2 areas will each have 3 influence in them determined by the previous player. The active player will draw 6 new influence from the bag and split them into 2 equal groups on the empty areas of the recruit board. Then they choose one new group and one old group. One of those groups is their income and goes into their supply, the other group goes onto a planet of their choosing. The 2 groups left over will be passed to the next player.
My hope is that this is faster than the old version and gives players some meaningful control over their income and how planets are built up. The additional ability to affect the next player’s options seems like it could be a nice point of tension.
The player will then pay to move a faction and check if any planets are overcrowded which triggers a war. Which is another change from older versions. Wars are now triggered by the game state instead of being chosen by players. Earlier versions made players hesitant to spend resources to start a war and then also invest in that war for the desired outcome. The automatic wars help this and since the losing cubes in a battle push the end game, it helps the game not stall.
I’m thinking of cutting down the number of influence that trigger a war, to help speed up the early game. But it may not be needed with the new recruit system.
Plutocracy has come a long way, and like many times before, I think I’m on the right path now. Only more testing will see if this is where I want it to go.
I also had a chance to play two games inspired by Plutocracy by some of my friends. Both took the core idea of not controlling your own faction and went in different directions. Both are very interesting and I look forward to watching them develop.
Tomorrow (9/29) I’ll be at the Boston Festival of Indie Games. I’ll be interviewing designers for The Board Game Workshop and giving out one of the awards at the end of the show. If you will be at the show be sure to say hi.